530 MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE
4. Potassium bichromate gives a brick-red precipitate,
5. Stannous chloride gives a white precipitate, changing to grey.
6. Remsch's Test. This is used to detect mercury in organic mixtures.
A grey coating of mercury forms on the copper foil. If the copper foil is
dried and heated in a dry test tube, mercury will volatilize and deposit as
round globules of the metal on the part of the cooler tube, which can be seen
under the microscope.
Medico-Legal Points. Metallic mercury, when perfectly pure, can hardly
be considered to be poisonous. Cases are recorded where individuals have
swallowed a pound or two of the liquid metal as a treatment of chronic con-
stipation without any harmful effects. During the trial of a murder case at
Armagh in June 1905, it was proved in evidence that the accused first tried
to kill the old woman by repeated administrations of metallic mercury, but
eventually put strychnine into the meal which caused her death. The
analyst who made an examination of the organs said that he discovered two
hundred and ninety-six grains of pure metallic mercury in the body, l^e
mercury, however, was not the cause of death, and did not act as a poison,
He found one-seventh of a grain of strychnine in the stomach, liver and kid-
neys and there was little doubt that strychnine had been the cause of death.02
In exceptional cases, however, mercury may undergo chemical changes in
the body and operate as a poison.
In India, metallic mercury is sometimes given in food to cause injury,
Metallic mercury was introduced into a plantain which was given to a per-
son to eat, but the metal was seen by the intended victim in the portion of
the fruit before he ate it.63 A Mahomedan male of Karachi, in his afternoon
meal, was given dal and cliapati for eating by his wife. He suspected para
(mercury) in these and reported the matter to the police. All these articles
were examined and found to contain metallic mercury, and a kowri (shell)
which were given to the woman by her paramour.04 In his annual report
for the year 1947, the Chemical Examiner of the United and Central Pro-
vinces mentions a case from Agra, where metallic mercury was given in a
pan (prepared betel) by a woman to her husband, but on chewing the pan
he saw some goblets of the metal falling down on the ground.
ial vapours are certainly pois^ous^and accidents have occurred
from their inhalatttfn: " ATcase TsTfSSSfaeETBy Seidel,65 in which a woman
inhaled for some affection or other 2.5 grammes of mercury poured on red-
hot coals, and died in ten days with all the symptoms of mercurial poisoning.
Mercury in a finely divided state, when rubbed into the skin as an
ointment, is readily absorbed, and produces1 salivation and other effects of
mercurial poisoning. It has also caused death in a few instances when its
application was too liberal. Thus, three persons were found dead in bed <
the previous day they had rubbed into the body, for the purpose of curine
the itch, an ointment containing 270 grammes of finely divided mercury.00
Amalgams which are the alloys of mercury act as poisons Stock °? has
drawn attention to the special danger of chronic mercury poisoning bv Conner
amalgam used for stopping carious teeth. ^-Kf^
Poisoning by mercuric oxide is rare. In his annual
1929, the Chemical Analyser of Bombay reports the
62. C. J. S. Thompson, Poison Mysteries, p. 345.
63. Bombay Chemical Analyser's Annual Report, 1921.
64. Bombay Chem. Analyser's Annual Rep., ~1927 p 24
* "* 3° : LeSChke' <** To" ^ T'*nsl. by Stewart